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EIDC Chief Vows to Remain

November 20, 2002|Ted Rohrlich and Steve Berry | Times Staff Writers

The head of Los Angeles' film permitting agency has rebuffed calls from some board members that he step aside during an ongoing criminal probe into possible misuse of agency funds.

Cody Cluff, president of the Entertainment Industry Development Corp., told the board in a letter that he has done nothing wrong and that leaving now would be "destabilizing, unfounded and rash."

Cluff, the subject of a probe by the district attorney's office, said he intends to remain in his post throughout a management review and audit ordered by the EIDC's executive committee.

At the same time, Cluff signaled that he does not plan to spend the rest of his career at the agency, which he has led since its inception seven years ago.

"I am an entrepreneur at heart and I hope to have many successful ventures in my future," Cluff wrote in the letter, dated Friday. "However, I would be negligent in abandoning EIDC at this time."

The district attorney's office is probing whether Cluff misused funds through lavish expenditures and political donations to elected officials, including some on the EIDC's board of directors.

An issue at the heart of the probe is the district attorney's view that the EIDC, which collects fees from film companies to help them obtain government permits, is in fact a public agency. Cluff, in his letter, calls this a "fundamental misconception," arguing that the agency is, as its incorporation papers state, a private nonprofit entity.

Last week, three elected officials on the EIDC's board and executive committee called for Cluff to take a leave of absence during the probe. They were County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn and City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel.

Neither Yaroslavsky nor Greuel has received EIDC campaign contributions, although individual agency staff members gave $5,400 to Greuel's campaign. Hahn received $1,000 during his mayoral campaign. The mayor, in addition to all council members and county supervisors, automatically serves as a member of the EIDC board.

Other board members, including Supervisor Mike Antonovich, have defended Cluff, warning against a rush to judgment when no criminal charges have been filed. Antonovich has received a $1,000 campaign contribution from the EIDC and $1,350 from agency staff.

Cluff said in his letter that agency bylaws prevent the executive committee, scheduled to meet Friday, from discharging him. He cited provisions that he said require the full EIDC board of directors to meet twice before the president can be dismissed.

The full board has generally met only once a year. The next annual meeting is being set for January, Cluff said.

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